Embargoes are often in the news, so Tim Bowen trades some topical collocations.

‘A complete European Union oil embargo on Iran over its nuclear programme came into force on 1stJuly’, meaning that an official ban on trading in that commodity with that country was introduced. Apart from oil embargoes, there can also be arms embargoes, weapons embargoes, trade embargoes, export embargoes and military embargoes as well as specific embargoes on the import or export of certain commodities.

An embargo can be complete, total or absolute, as in the example above, or it can be partial, as in ‘The president responded by declaring a partial embargo on trade with Cuba’.

Several verbs can be used to put an embargo in place, namely declare, impose, place or put, as in ‘The government has placed an embargo on the export of components that could be used to construct a nuclear weapon’. 

Once in place, an embargo needs to be enforced, as in ‘United Nations observers have been deployed to ensure that the arms embargo is strictly enforced’.

If a country is affected by an embargo, it is under an embargo, as in ‘At that time, both countries were under US trade embargoes’. If an embargo is made less strict, it is eased and if it is made stricter, it is tightened, as in ‘EU countries are meeting to decide whether to tighten the embargo on the sale of arms to the Syrian government’. 

Countries can respect embargoes or they can break, bypass, circumvent or violate them, as in ‘Despite intensive lobbying at the United Nations, it is clear that the arms embargo is being systematically violated by several countries in the region’.